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It is said that:

• in free morphemes the word form consists of exactly one morpheme (e.g., word, act, etc).

• root: is the morpheme left over when all inflectional and derivational affixes have been removed (e.g., word, act 'which is the root for active, activity, activate, actuate etc.')

  1. Does this mean that (free morphemes) and (roots) are the same thing (ie does the two terms refer to the same thing)?
  2. What about words which consists of a free morpheme and a bound morpheme like (wordy, activity etc.) - are they considered free morphemes?

Thank you!

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    I don't think particles like "yes" are generally considered roots, but they're definitely free morphemes
    – Tristan
    Jan 15 at 10:38

2 Answers 2

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  1. No, it is not the same, because there are roots in some languages that never occur as word forms and are never free morphemes. Here's an example from Latin: laud is the root of the noun laus, laudis "praise" and it is also the root of the verb laudo (laudare) "to praise". Neither the noun nor the verb have any inflected form matching the bare root. For another example, see the comment by @Tristan.

  2. No. Depending on your analysis of the word form, it is either composed of two morphemes or it is one morpheme, but not both. Linguists may disagree of the morpheme status of some elements of words (specially when the analysis requires the knowledge of some other languages, e.g. Latin in case of a Latin loan word in English), but once you committed to a set of morphemes, it is either-or.

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  • for a concrete example of 1, in Semitic languages (almost?) no roots can ever occur as word forms, because roots are (almost?) all purely consonantal, with the required vowel pattern essentially being a derivational transfix
    – Tristan
    Jan 15 at 10:33
  • I am asking specifically about English. What I meant to say is: The word (word) is a free morpheme as well as the root of the lexeme WORD. But the word (wordy) is not a root as it consists of (word + prefix 'y'); yet it is not a compound form (like 'armchair' for example). So what do we call these types of words - free morphemes or compounds?
    – J.a.deb
    Jan 15 at 11:23
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    How should we guess that? In your question "English" is not even mentioned. Jan 15 at 11:26
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    @J.a.deb We call them neither free morphemes nor compounds, but derived words. You cannot divide everything into just free morphemes and compounds, those are just two categories out of many – it would be like saying everything in the world is either green or red. (Also -y is a suffix, not a prefix.) Jan 15 at 12:19
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Adding to the first question, bound root is also very common in borrowings. For example dent- (from Latin) in English: dent-al, dent-ist, in-dent-ation, but never dent on its own.

A similar thing happens in Japanese borrowings from Chinese. For example, the loan form 人 jin ‘human, person, people’ is only used alone in compounds like 人類 jin-rui ‘human kind’, 人造 jin-zou ‘man-made, artificial’, ドイツ人 Doitsu-jin ‘German person, German people’. For non-compound uses, the corresponding indigenous word hito is used instead (written with the same kanji 人).

Such roots can sometimes still be used alone (free), though. I searched for the Latin dent in English, and according to Wiktionary, it’s used as a technical term in engineering and weaving. But I would argue this is a different thing from the original meaning of an animal tooth. In Japanese, I’ve seen people intentionally choose the reading of the bound roots to make rhymes, puns, etc.

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  • The Markdown parser had significantly messed up your formatting, so I’ve tidied it up. I’ve also taken the liberty of doing a bit of copy-editing to make it read better and more clearly. As for the third paragraph, those uses of dent are actually not the Latin root – rather than being general Latinate/Romance loan words that contain a non-transparent root, they are borrowings from French specifically, not of the root, but of two specific, technical senses of the (unbound) noun dent. So they’re not only different semantically, but also etymologically. Mar 2 at 15:50

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